Evidence of meeting #32 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was s-4.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Luc Bourdon  Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Alexandre Roger

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

So it would be prudent for this committee, for example, not to step ahead of this relationship in mandating that a particular technology be implemented. As the minister said, I think we should wait for the working group to have a solid consensual agreement on how they want to move forward before we consider the hammer of regulation, if you will.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

It's very important to continue that way. As we said, the tools we will have with Bill S-4 will permit the unions, the workers, to be part of our solution. We have already done a good job, because since 2007 we haven't cut investments in rail safety; we've invested more. Since 2007, train accidents have decreased by 23% and train derailments by 26%. But we want to continue. We want to have better scores.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

You mentioned workers. Of course, the proposed amendments here would allow workers to participate in terms of raising safety concerns to Transport Canada without fear of reprisal. That would be a positive step forward. Can you explain that a little bit?

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Go ahead, Luc.

9:10 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

There are actually two things in tab 37 of your binder. One deals with the reporting of unsafe acts directly to Transport Canada without fear of reprisal. So that's going to be in place.

Second, previous safety management system regulations required that a company involve employees in implementing day-to-day management of the SMS. Bill S-4 proposes that a bargaining agent now be involved so that a union representative will be directly involved in selecting the appropriate individual to participate. So that's a great improvement as well.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

There are also proposals with respect to requirements for environmental plans. There have been environmental costs associated with previous train derailments as well as with certain aspects of operations, in the rail yards, for example. If there's a spill in the rail yard, it's not necessarily covered.

Can you talk about the requirement for environmental plans? Does that apply to rail properties and rail rights of way?

9:15 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

There's a provision in this bill that would allow the Governor in Council to make regulations with respect to environmental plans that would require the railway to file an environmental plan with Transport Canada, to demonstrate how they're measuring compliance with that plan, and to allow our own inspector to measure the railway's compliance with respect to the plans they file with us.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Can you briefly describe what the safety requirements now imposed under the new rail operating certificate change? In other words, prior to this proposal, what did a rail company need to establish itself?

9:15 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

For years, when someone wanted to start to operate a railway, they just had to go to the Canadian Transportation Agency and demonstrate that they had enough money to cover liability. One of the things the panel determined when it did its review was that there was probably a void, in that there were no safety requirements to determine whether a company was able to operate safely. At Transport Canada, through a project we call “regulatory capture”, we found that some new railways were operating without rules. Now all railways currently operating under provincial jurisdiction that are operating on a federal track will be required to obtain a railway operating certificate that will be based on a regulation that will determine the criteria they must meet in order to obtain their certificate. We're going to be able to remove it or alter it.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Mr. Sullivan.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Mr. Minister, for being here.

The Auditor General found—because we're talking about safety—that Transport Canada does not know to what extent organizations transporting dangerous goods are complying with the existing regulations. Its review of emergency response plans submitted by organizations is not timely or accurate. It's given temporary approval for nearly half the plans required for transport of the most dangerous regulated goods, such as types of ammonia, acids, and explosives. Temporary approvals are subject to less verification, and they have been in place for 10 years and more in some cases. Many of those weaknesses we found at Transport Canada were identified more than five years ago and have yet to be fixed.

This bill doesn't do anything to help you there, does it, Mr. Minister?

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

That's a different issue.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Isn't it safety?

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

It's not about safety but about the transport of dangerous goods, as you said. Bill S-4 will cover a lot of things.

With regard to the environmental issues, as Mr. Bourdon said, we'll have better tools. For dangerous goods, we will follow what the Auditor General said about that. We will continue to have better results, and we'll continue to fix that.

Mr. Bourdon, do you have some words about that?

9:15 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

The transportation of dangerous goods is under a different act than the Railway Safety Act, and there's a section on rail transportation. It concerns a different directorate when you talk about TDG.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

But we are. We're here to talk about rail safety, and that's one of the issues.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

We are here to talk about the passing of S-4 , sir.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Moving on, then, since we don't have a straight answer on that—

April 24th, 2012 / 9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Mr. Holder, on a point of order.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

No disrespect to my colleague opposite, but I actually thought today the subject was the Railway Safety Act. I think the member opposite would know very clearly that there's a distinction between the two. But if not, I wanted to just bring that to his attention for the purpose of being able to focus on why we're discussing it here with the minister present. No one is suggesting that safety is not an issue, but I think we just want to be clear, and I know the member opposite would want to be clear on the distinction between the two.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you, Mr. Holder.

Mr. Sullivan.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

What the question was attempting to point out was that this act does not, in fact, improve Transport Canada's ability to regulate the transportation of dangerous goods. That was agreed to by the minister.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

No, that's not what I said.

I said that we were talking about Bill S-4 today, but you are speaking about another piece of legislation. It is completely different from what we are talking about today. I will say it in French because it is easier for me in that language. I said this was not the topic that we were discussing today. You want us to debate another aspect of the legislation. I never said that safety was not important.

Everything we are doing today, and everything that Transport Canada is doing, seeks to increase the safety of all modes of transportation in Canada. We have been talking about Bill S-4 since 2006, to improve the situation in relation to railway safety.

We are asking people to focus on passing Bill S-4 and to send this bill forward so that it is adopted as quickly as possible, so that we can increase railway safety in Canada. That is what we are doing today.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Let's move over to the requirement for a railway operating certificate, which is part of Bill S-4. Can you tell me the requirements to obtain one? Will public transit agencies, such as GO Transit, Metrolinx, the new Air Rail Link, TransLink, and other urban transit agencies, need to acquire one of these? And what will they have to do to get one?

9:20 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

First, in the bill there is a provision to put a regulation together. Once the bill is passed, the first thing will be to develop the regulation to determine the criteria for obtaining this certificate. First, we need the bill to get the authority to put the regulation together, which will determine the criteria.

As far as who would be covered by the certificate, obviously if you do not operate on federal tracks, you would not be required to obtain a railway operating certificate. Commuter rails, such as those in Calgary or Edmonton, would not be covered by that. West Coast Express would be, because they operate on federal track, on CP's track. AMT, in Montreal, would be, because they operate partially on CN and CP, as would GO Transit for the portion they operate on CN's network.